Sometimes, religion can be a good thing…
While on my lunch break, I called a friend of mine who is an unbeliever. He jokingly said that I was religious. I told him that I was not. And I usually take offense to be being called religious. I usually say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual/I have relationship.” But this time, instead of being cliché, I proceeded to explain to him the difference between a person who has a close relationship with God and a person who is just religious without any true relationship with God. We often hear this as Relationship vs. Religion. Just recently there was a very popular YouTube video that became viral overnight. It’s called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus”. The video was spoken word poetry by a young Christian man who was basically saying why he hated the Christianity religion, and yet retained all of his love for Jesus and the church. He received many likes on the video from people who were disillusioned with church rituals. (Here’s the link to the YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY)
Many believers are growing tired of the Christianity religion and its rituals. Wake up at 9:15am on Sunday morning. Get dressed. Drive to church. Let the ushers direct you to your seat. Stand up when the pastor says to. Pay what the pastor tells you to. Pray when the pastor says to. Fast every two weeks. Pay 10% of each paycheck. Eat this communion wafer. Drink this communion juice. Sing this song. Clap and sway this way. Come to the altar to repent. Come to bible study on Tuesday. Read the bible for 15 minutes every night. Listen to this worship CD on your way to work…Repeat.
I’ve done this ritual for almost my entire life. And lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people say that so many people have RELIGION, but no RELATIONSHIP. They say religion as if it is profanity or if it is to despised. But while talking to my unbelieving friend, I realized quickly that religion – but more specifically RITUALS – is not always a bad thing. In fact, they can be a blessing.
I told my friend that a ritual can be anything that you do at a certain time over a long period of time. I used hygiene as a good example. For example, every morning, many adults wake up and hop in the shower or the tub. Then they brush their teeth. Then they apply deodorant. If they are not African-American, they usually wash their hair while in the shower. They do this EVERY morning RELIGIOUSLY. When people use the word “religiously”, they mean that a person does a certain activity CONSISTENTLY and FREQUENTLY. Without frequency and consistency, MOST things in your life will be ineffective and inefficient. If you apply consistency and frequency to just everyday routines, it will even help propel you into greatness. Greatness is not just achieved by being born with skill or even by sheer luck. Greatness at anything is usually achieved through practice (which is another way of looking at consistency and frequency).
Consistency denotes someone doing a particular thing every time. Some people get their oil changed on their car consistently whenever the mechanic tells them to. They do it on time every time they are told to change their oil. Some people pay “tithes” consistently. Whatever the Sunday is after they get their paycheck, they give 10% of their income. They do it EVERY Sunday after payday WITHOUT FAIL. But if someone pays tithes on every third paycheck, and then every first paycheck, and then every tenth paycheck, and then every second paycheck, then that is not CONSISTENCY. It has to be every time at the same time to be considered consistent.
Frequency denotes someone dong a particular thing OFTEN. If you have a particular type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, you wash your hands FREQUENTLY. Consistently washing your hands may just be washing your hands after every trip to bathroom, before meals, after meals, and after sneezing or coughing on your hands. But washing one’s hands FREQUENTLY could mean every 5 minutes. Some people pray FREQUENTLY. They don’t just pray at meals and before going to bed at night. Some people pray whenever they get a minute to get alone with God. Some people pray when in their car alone. Some people pray in the bathroom. Some people pray on their lunch breaks. Some people pray while talking their walk. These people pray FREQUENTLY.
Well, consistency and frequency are two important factors in the Christianity religion. If you don’t do Christian “rituals” consistently and frequently, then you will not be referred to as a religious person. People who only go to church on Christmas Day, Mother’s Day, and Easter will not be considered as people who attend church consistently or frequently. So if you remove CONSISTENCY and FREQUENCY from Christianity, what have you? Well, you’d have some pathetic Christians.
I work with toddlers at my job. They tell us to change our gloves after every diaper change/nose wipe. But how great would our hygiene be if we only changed our gloves after every second diaper change/nose wipe? Then after every fifth diaper change/nose wipe? Then after every third diaper change/nose wipe? Then after every tenth diaper change/nose wipe? We would putting one child’s feces on another child. We’d be putting the germs of one child’s mucus on another child. And what if that next child’s whose nose you wipe has a weakened immune system? And because of your INCONSISTENT handwashing this child catches a very serious disease? Change your gloves/wash your hands/use hand sanitizer after EVERY diaper change and nose wiping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. I will be ineffective as a child care provider if I do not use consistency.
How great would your hygiene be if you brushed your teeth twice according to the following schedule: April 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29? Your breath would smell horrible and being near you would be unbearable! Notice the consistency though. It is every four days. That is consistent. But it’s not frequent enough! You will have inefficient dental hygiene if you do not use frequency.
So we can see in the natural that there are very practical ways in which consistency and frequency are beneficial to humans. But let’s apply this to our spiritual well-being. I can speak from personal experience. When I pray inconsistently and infrequently, things go awry in my life. But those days in which I pray first thing in the morning, talk to God on my way to work, and pray before bed, I have an AMAZING DAY and next day. I ASSURE YOU, when I do not pray as consistently and frequently, I have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. So because of this Praying “Ritual”, I know what works and what doesn’t work in my faith walk. I know that praying for five seconds before rushing out of the door to work DOES NOTHING FOR ME OR GOD. But I now know what works.
When it comes to fasting, I have my Fasting “Ritual”. I fast every first day of the month. I eat or drink nothing for the entire 24 hours. (I had to make an exception for April 1st because my church had communion today and because I had to take an important medicine, but other than those things, I ate or drank nothing else.) I have done this for January, February, March, and April. And take me at my word, I cannot describe the blessings I have received from being faithful to the commitment I’ve made to God for this year of 2012 of abstaining for the 1st of each month. I know from the Old Testament that my God likes receiving the first of things – first-born sons and first fruits of a harvest – so I decided to give Him more attention on the first day of each month (so of course that included the first day of the year) than I did every other day of the month. I couldn’t imagine the blessings He’s bestowed on me because of the first day of the month fasts.
And with regards to church attendance, I go to church every Sunday and most Tuesdays for bible study. I love going to church. And I’m not going to be religious and ritualistic. I’m going because every time I go to church, I get blessed. I’ve found that church always leads me to a spiritual blessing. So since I’ve learned to associate church with blessings, I just add one word before church and before blessings. Consistent church attendance = Consistent blessings. Now, I don’t always get blessed as I would like especially when I visit different churches on Sundays or Tuesdays, but I usually do. So religiously and ritualistically attending church can cause you to be frequently and consistently blessed. If God told you that every time you went to church that He had a blessing waiting for you there, how often would you go? Let me guess… You would probably go CONSISTENTLY and FREQUENTLY. You would attend church religiously. Observers would say that you attend church as if it were a ritual. But you wouldn’t care because unlike them, you are being consistently and frequently blessed.
Now if you are going to a dead church without the spirit of God working through the members and the pastor, then don’t expect to be consistently and frequently blessed. But if you are connected to the right “activity” and the right people consistently and frequently, then expect God to bless you “religiously”!
How would you feel if you had a husband or wife or child or best friend who you only heard from every 5 weeks? That relationship would suffer tremendously and bring a lot of resentment and hurt to you. What if you worked a job where your paychecks were not consistent? The boss paid you every ten days, after that every 3 days, after that every 40 days, after that every 2 days, after that every 180 days? You’d not stay at that job for long!
So as we see, in order for your relationships, health, and Christian walk to be EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT, it must have consistency and frequency. Religion is characterized by consistency and frequency. If you already have relationship with God and the Holy Spirit, then religion can sometimes consistently help the relationship and frequently keep the door open for the Holy Spirit to continue moving in your life.